The Nurse presents chapters ten and eleven of her black comedy novel, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her shocking life as a serial killer here.
It’s like spinning plates, but with people. Man-management is too much of a clusterfuck for The Nurse, whose long-ago psychometric test results revealed a classic anti-teamworker in a business landscape where too many silly shitheads value teamwork above almost any other personality trait.
What’s so undesirable about people who can function on their own, who don’t fall apart when there’s no team around them? What about the rebels, the arseholes in the room, the ones who dare to raise their hands up in meetings and say, “Excuse me, please, but isn’t that an insane idea” while the rest are busy licking the CEO’s chocolate starfish?
Fucking colleagues. They’re nothing more than a vast pain in the clit, to be honest, even when their obsessions dovetail this neatly with her own. The Daves are fine, and Shitty Eddie is cool enough. But the other two? Betty and the Chief Surgeon? Sitting on the settee, grimacing, The Nurse throws her large, powerful hands in the air: enough is enough. She’ll bide her time and strike when the iron’s hot.
Things get worse. The Chief Surgeon’s most annoying habit, which fortunately isn’t a direct and present danger to the Team, is flourishes. The Nurse doesn’t like flourishes. To her, trepanning is about sharp, neat, clean movements and an efficient, cool-headed vibe. He is becoming more and more flowery and flouncy about it, spinning several times on the balls of his tiny feet before pouncing down with the drill or the knife or making a circular aeroplane approach like he’s feeding a reluctant baby. What a tosspot.
It doesn’t feel professional, it’s disrespectful, and he isn’t as tidy as he used to be. Sloppy work means a sloppy mind, and a sloppy mind could mean disaster for them all.
The final straw breaks the camel’s back pretty soon. When The Nurse discovers the Chief Surgeon has joined the East Sussex Hunt, she is genuinely concerned, and fear doesn’t feel nice. Trepanning is one thing, fox hunting is another thing altogether.
The Sussex Hunt, like almost every hunt in the nation, is not a Clean Boot hunt. Clean boot hunting means you don’t kill foxes, but most hunts still kill foxes. Before the season kicks off officially, they go ‘Cubbing,’ training new fox hounds on actual fox cubs to get them familiar with the scent. The hunters, on foot with their hounds, literally throw baby fox cubs to the dogs, which tear them apart limb from limb. In late October, they start hunting in earnest, usually twice a week.
Cubbing is illegal. Hunting wildlife with dogs is illegal. They do it anyway. The rozzers do fuck all about it, being too deep in the pockets of the Establishment, lips firmly around the pulsing knobs of wealthy landowners. The Tories, who would love to repeal the 2004 Hunting Act and savage our wildlife whenever they want, couldn’t give a stuff. Now this utter bell-end of a Surgeon has actu-fuckingly joined a hunt. An illegal hunt, when dodgy activities of any sort clearly put the trepanning Dream Team at serious risk.
Not only that, the Chief Surgeon has idly mentioned wanting to wear his hunting costume out at night, in pubs and clubs. And while this is Brighton, where more or less anything goes, the regular massacre of local wildlife by toffee-nosed criminal gangs does not go down well in this city. Fuckeration. Fuckeridge. Fuckster.
All in all, things are going downhill fast. Betty is going increasingly mental, her dementia developing horribly quickly. The Chief Surgeon’s ego has put him right on the edge of blowing it big time. The Nurse realises she’d better make a Disaster Plan fast, before it’s too late.
A few days later, having spent hours attempting to drum some form of security awareness into his thick skull, The Nurse decides it’s no good just dealing with The Chief Surgeon himself. He has already made contact with the East Sussex hunt, and they’re well aware of him, keen as mustard to add another Gammon to their ranks, another criminal to their already-well-stocked gang. There’s no way around it. She needs to deal with the entire hunt, every ass-brain who belongs to it, as well as their followers, the knuckle-dragging wallies you see on quad bikes following the dickheads on the horses.
This is the biggest murder project The Nurse has tackled in a lifetime’s killing. How to do it so there’s no suspicion? How to despatch the hunters without getting caught? This is going to take some thought, even for a seasoned spree killer like The Nurse, especially since Betty is no help, becoming less reliable and more demented by the day. Nor can she trust The Chief Surgeon as far as she can throw him. Bollocks.
As she discovers, plenty of serial killers get away with it. They mostly come from the USA, since that’s where the best nutters are bred. The Zodiac Killer, for example, massacred at least five and loved to taunt local newspapers with letters about his activities. He was never caught. 1946 saw eight people – all couples – despatched by a ‘Phantom Killer’ who terrorised the town of Texarkana. Almost 400 people were arrested for being the so-called Moonlight Murderer, one after the other, but the real killer remained free. In 1911, fifteen women were knocked off by someone unknown in Atlanta, and during the ’30s the Cleveland Torso Murderer killed a similar number of folk, leaving bits and pieces of them spread all over Ohio. The identity of London’s Jack the Ripper remains a mystery.
Having studied the Modus Operandi of her best heroes, The Nurse is starting to feel more confident about the job in hand. If they can do it, so can she and the gang. After all, they have already knocked off hundreds of victims, many more than any of their heroes. It’s enough to make you proud.
It takes a few weeks to come up with a watertight plan, during which The Nurse observes, with growing concern, The Chief Surgeon continuing to brown-nose the Master of the East Sussex Hunt, even making plans to actually buy a horse of his own. The fact that the ridiculous man has never taken so much as a donkey ride on a beach, never mind climb aboard seventeen hands-worth of wide-beamed, reluctant horse, doesn’t seem to bother him. Christ in a barn, what a twat.
The Nurse applies to join the hunt’s Facebook page under the guise of a keen rider who has just moved down from the north. She’s accepted. Excellent. Now she knows when they’re going to meet, where and for what.
When it’s announced they’ll be illegally chasing foxes over Romney Marsh way, The Nurse sets her plan in stone. The Daves are quickly sent to buy a load of old World War Two ordnance from a dodgy vintage military dealer over in Ringmer, coming home laden with unexploded bombs and rusty cannisters of mustard gas.
The horses are an issue. The Nurse adores wildlife, loves animals, and there’s no way she’s going to let these magnificent creatures get hurt. It’s bad enough that they’re forced to lug a load of fat criminal bastards around on their backs, never mind get blown up and gassed. Donating a few grand to a friendly bunch of animal rights activists, she arranges for the horses to be let loose while the hunters are busy getting drunk, something they habitually do before wobbling off on their patient steeds to murder the wildlife.
The big day arrives. Milling around half-pissed, waggling their silver hip flasks in the air, it takes the hunt a good while to figure out that their horses have gone missing. They bundle off in the direction of the hoofprints on foot, following their steeds’ tracks through a gate, then down a hill to a deserted barn where the Daves have fitted a gadget that generates convincing horse sounds. Striding across the field, haw-hawing like the arseholes they are, the entire hunt approaches the barn as one, and the Master flings open the door. As he does, there’s a pregnant silence, followed by a low giggle that makes the huntsmen start and look around them in surprise, then all hell lets loose.
There’s a massive explosion. Limbs fly everywhere. A foot, still inside its lambswool Argyll sock, lands in the ditch where The Nurse and the Daves are hiding. Finishing their bifter off, passing it to and fro’ quickly, they decide it’s probably safest to slope off before the rozzers arrive. As the sirens approach fast from Brighton, the gang slides away silently as a grisly rain of human bits and bobs falls to earth behind them.
Conservative MPs raise a few questions in the House. But to be honest, nobody gives much of a shit about the fate of fifty or more of Sussex’s nastiest, snobbiest lawbreakers. In fact the kind, law-abiding folk of East Sussex are actually thrilled to be free of the snooty arse-wipes who invade their gardens and kill local foxes year after year.
The local police are chuffed as well. They hadn’t quite got round to doing anything about hunting with dogs in East Sussex, despite the fact that it has been against the law since 2004, and now they won’t have to bother. Result.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. The East Sussex Hunt has gone. But the Chief Surgeon is still here, and while it’s one thing wearing hunting pinks and becoming a hunt-wannabe, it is quite another to drunkenly bellow about the Dream Team’s own hunting and killing activities in a public place, in that revolting, booming mellifluous tone. Thank fuck it happened so late and everyone was so pissed.
This is like a game of fucking whack-a-mole. The Nurse may have rid East Sussex of the hunt, but The Chief Surgeon is gagging to tell his pub mates about their trepanning activities, making ghastly hints that he’s the trusted keeper of one heck of a deep, dark secret. Trust the shitmagnet to open his big, flappy arsetrumpet of a mouth down the Poison Ivy.
In retrospect, he’s an even bigger risk than she’d realised, far too much of a bon viveur with a vast ego to match, and horribly indiscreet. The Nurse is fucked if she’s going back behind bars because of his twatwaffle, because he wants people to think he’s a player, a cool guy, a man of international fucking mystery.
In the end, all it takes is one gay copper overhearing The Chief Surgeon down the Poison Ivy, who idly mentions it to his boss as a bit of a laugh. The rozzers are starting to get suspicious anyway thanks to the sharp increase in missing persons in the city. Then Betty gets pissed, letting rip about any cunt trying it on with her ending up with a hole in their bastard head, and things start to unravel. More people begin asking questions, and the canny rozzer in the pub keeps cornering The Nurse. It’s awful. In the end, The Nurse, completely freaked out, gathers the team together and locks the doors of the Hove villa firmly behind them.
Take one planet-sized ego and refuse it an audience. The Chief Surgeon soon gets edgy with nothing to do. Betty knits and makes endless pots of tea. The Nurse necks Es and cleans the house. Dave, Dave and Eddie take a Comedy Cab to a pub in Shoreham-by-Sea and stay there, safely drunk and out of the way. The Chief Surgeon fucking fidgets.
After five days of his fidgeting, The Nurse is at the end of her tether. Planning with Betty, who’s having a rare good day, they sneak into his bedroom and sit hard on the Chief Surgeon’s face so he can’t struggle. Then they tie him to the bed and leave him there with a mucky rag stuffed in his mouth and two more up his nostrils. Peace at last.
Now and again, there’s a muffled protest from the room. Occasionally, there’s banging and crashing. The Nurse and Betty resolutely ignore the noise until it fades away. Eventually, it’s quiet. Seven days after they sat on his face, they push open the door a crack to find The Chief Surgeon stiff and dead on the bed, thirst-blackened tongue protruding in a rude sort of way that makes them clutch each other and giggle.
He’s fucking heavy. It takes both of them to roll him down the stairs wrapped in a rug, out through the kitchen into the back garden. There’s not much room left out there, so his final resting place is on top of a stacked threesome of failed trepanning experiments – which is, when they think about it, rather apt. Then off they merrily go down The Poison Ivy, arm in arm, to celebrate.
Because the Chief Surgeon was such a tosser, there are no repercussions. A handful of The Nurse and Bettys’ pub friends ask where the ‘arrogant fat bell-end’ is, but not many, and their curiosity doesn’t last. Betty mentions something vague about Devon, then changes her story to a job in a private brain surgery research facility up Newcastle way, causing no confusion because people don’t give a fuck where the man has got to anyway.
His own family is quietly relieved. Prominent Socialists, they’d always found the Chief Surgeon’s conservative ways and Conservative voting habits abhorrent. They’d have preferred a dreadlocked druggie dropout of a son to the bow-tied, yellow waist-coated, tweedy public school jerk of a disappointment they got.
After a few weeks, The Nurse, Betty, The Daves and Shitty Eddie re-start their trepanning and fertiliser businesses, but in a low-key sort of way. The news about multiple stag and hen night disappearances has got around and trade is flagging. Now it’s the off-season, on the brink of winter, there aren’t as many home-grown drunks on the streets either. It’s a shame they’re too old for clubbing, really. They’d be able to spot potential victims early on, track them throughout the evening, plan well and make better-organised, more discreet captures. Now there’s an idea.
Back in the ’90s, The Nurse spent most nights of the week clubbing. In the early days, as a teen, she frequented the Inn Place and loved Sherry’s, which later became the notorious Pink Coconut. Those who recall the Brighton Belle Club will remember Quentin Cook before his name change to Norman, spinning discs there at weekends, grooving to Grand Master Flash’s Love Don’t Turn Around and The Closest Thing to Heaven by the Kane Gang.
Club Savannah was another hot fave, as was the Rhino Club. But The Escape Club holds The Nurse’s fondest memories. Namely upstairs at the Escape, where Justin, who worked in Classic Clothing in the North Laine during the day, played jazz, soul and funk until late at weekends. Despite the fact that there were only two loos to serve several hundred drunken and happily drugged revellers, it was a mighty fine night out, even better when the bouncers, Tim and Big Mike, slipped her and her mates a few free Es on the way in and the night got wonderfully, beautifully messy.
The Nurse and Shitty Eddie get stoned for inspiration’s sake, eventually deciding to suss out the city’s club scene to see if it might deliver potential victims. Sadly, no matter how many clothes she tries on, whatever she does with her hair, she looks like Mrs. Thatcher, and he looks like an ex-investment banker. The whole club victim initiative collapses before it gets off the ground when they’re refused entry not just to the Escape Club, but to every other night club in town. Even the really, really shit ones. Back to the drawing board.
The Nurse prides herself on her sharp intellect. Betty has never cared about hers. Betty’s physical self has always been so spectacularly gorgeous that, in comparison, her brain seems pointless. As long as Betty can hold the endless one-sided stream-of-consciousness conversations that are her trademark, she’s happy. They don’t use up any brainpower at all.
Having been nothing but human eye candy for so many years, Betty’s mind remains unused, unchallenged and uncared for. When it begins to go, she doesn’t notice. But The Nurse watches in horror as Betty continues to lose the plot and the Team’s priorities are forced into sharp focus.
First things first. The Nurse must do everything she can to protect herself. Second, she has to protect Betty. Third, if Betty loses the plot beyond a certain point, a point that’s arriving faster than expected, The Nurse will use her for trepanning practice. It’d be a shame not to. The Nurse hates waste. Fourth, she needs to keep a weather eye on the Daves and Eddie just in case they start getting flaky too. Oh, there’s so much to do.
As Betty’s plot-losing gets more acute, she forgets she’s killed Len. She wanders the Hove villa, wailing piteously, searching for the ‘love of her life.’ Len’s absence has lent him a desirability he’d lacked for many years before Betty knocked him off, and she’s in and out of the Poison Ivy day after day, pestering the regulars. While they know Len’s dead, they don’t know how he died.
The Nurse suspects this newly-disturbing space cadet of a Betty might confess before long, or even ask one of the locals to have a little dig in the back garden, see what they can find. Fucking hell. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
Things keep going downhill until, one day, Betty starts maundering on about finding en het. En het? En fucking het? Holy crap. Betty has always had airs and graces, but so far they’ve been harmless enough. She pretends she’s from an aristocratic French family when The Nurse knows jolly well she was born and bred in Woodingdean. She treats what she calls the ‘leur clarses’ in a ghastly ‘gracious lady’ sort of way that sets The Nurse’s teeth on edge. She has even taken to wearing a tiara in Sainsbury’s. This ‘het’ thing is the latest in a growing string of fucking maddening dementia tics, crazier than ever.
You know, when you’re posh, you’re meant to say ‘an’ hotel? In Betty’s addled, fast-deteriorating mind, the ‘an’ now belongs before every word starting with an ‘h.’ At the same time, her mock cut glass accent is getting more crystalline by the minute, like a 1950s Queen’s speech. A hat is no longer a hat. It’s a het. And ‘an’ isn’t pronounced ‘an,’ it’s pronounced ‘en.’ En het. Christ on a bike. Fucking nutter.
So here’s Betty dithering, twittering on about finding ‘en het’ to wear, and they’re late for the karaoke yet again. Worse still, there’s been a new development. Betty is doing a Chief Surgeon on her, compelled thanks to fast-developing dementia to confess not just her own sins, but those of The Nurse to the rozzers. Worst of all, John Street police station is just up the road from the Poison Ivy.
A woman without so much as a shred of conscience for her entire life, the increasingly demented Betty has finally grown one. As such, she has turned into an utter thundercunt, never mind a liability. The Nurse is getting older, and another spell in clink will be the death of her. She’ll never see daylight again. They’ll carry her out in a fucking box.
As a result of all this, The Nurse has been locking Betty in her bedroom overnight to keep her safe, to stop her confused wanderings. Now she leaves Betty’s door ajar and goes happily to bed. The next time her friend goes wandering the city in her nightie, well after midnight in mid-December, The Nurse opens a beady eye, listens to the front door click softly shut behind Betty, then closes the eye again and falls back into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next day, The Nurse reports Betty missing. She arrives at John Street nick in her tweed suit and sensible shoes and treats the fuckers to the performance of a lifetime. Ten minutes into the process, she’s got the Desk Sergeant more or less licking the floor tiles in an effort to please her. He can’t help himself. He is obscurely reminded of his school P.E. teacher, Miss Mizon, who wielded fearsome size twelve plimsolls back in the day when belting a child with considerable force was not considered abuse, but an essential element of a good education.
Betty’s Missing Persons Report is quickly completed and logged. The rozzers are totally convinced about The Nurse’s distress over her missing friend, almost in tears. Goody. The Nurse strides off to the Poison Ivy for karaoke and a pint.
Three days later, Betty washes up, all grey and fishy, under Brighton Pier, tangled in seaweed. Discovered by a Kemptown tranny called Fonda Cox, she is declared dead and the body handed over to The Nurse. Bored of the whole Betty episode and keen to move on, she buries Betty in the back garden in a cursory fashion, without ceremony, then puts the kettle on and opens the cake tin with a sigh of relief. That’s better. Two jobbies down, none to go.
Part 11 – Up the Fucking ‘Boro
Now we are four
The Nurse, the Daves and Eddie are operating alone. With that asswanker of a Chief Surgeon out of the way and Betty safely defused, The Nurse is feeling more cheery than lonely. She hadn’t quite realised until now what a fucking burden it was having to carry other people’s madness, as well as dealing with her own heavy load.
At the same time, the pigs are still sniffing around. It’s him again, the one who overheard Betty on her rant. He has cornered The Nurse several times since then in the Poison Ivy, one time wanting to know if she was into gardening, since he’d noticed her fingernails were always full of soil. He’s an observant asshat of a rozzer who is rarely half as drunk as he seems, and that makes him lethal.
The Nurse is starting to feel unsafe. Is it time to move on? But where? Brighton is her home, her base, her city, the place she always dreamed she’d return to. On the other hand, anything’s better than being sent back to fucking jail.
The next day, when shopping online, inspiration strikes. The Nurse loves vintage clothing. Her favourite vintage store is Disgraceland, on Baker Street in Middlesbrough. OK, so the Boro’ isn’t Brighton. It’s kind of the opposite, a sort of anti-Brighton, but maybe that’s exactly what she needs. A breath of fresh air. A fresh start, a new hometown, new friends, a new local pub, and an entirely new audience for her work.
The ‘Boro is a straight-talking survivor of a town with a wicked sense of humour whose residents – from what she’s heard – offer a warm if slightly alarming welcome. When, out of the blue later that day, she recalls that Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock is the only book she’s ever read that mentions both Brighton and Middlesbrough on the first page, the ‘Boro feels too much like fate to ignore. It’s a no-brainer. The decision is made. Up The Fucking Boro it is, then.
It doesn’t take long to pack up her Brighton life. The Nurse isn’t really into stuff. All she needs is her clothes, shoes and trepanning kit. Once she’s packed them neatly into a large suitcase, she stands in the front room at her and Betty’s old house, scenting the air experimentally, as if trying to identify an emotion. When, as usual, no emotions arrive to bother her, she sighs happily, locks the door behind her, and fucks off.
En route to the train station, The Nurse drops off a small fortune in cash to the Daves and Shitty, saying she’ll send an address once she’s settled in. Then she messages Scary Mary to let her know what’s occurring. As for the thriving fertiliser business, she just lets it go, drops it mid-flow, abandons it and walks away.
Thousands of customers are left fertiliser-less, and for years afterwards they complain via gardening forums because they’ve never managed to find anything half as good. The product acquires legendary status in the plant nursery world. Eventually, MBA courses across the nation start using it as an exemplar of the kind of business that pops up out of nowhere, aims high, burns its wings in some mysterious way, then completely disappears off the face of the planet.
Fucking hell, Middlesbrough is fun. This place will do very nicely, thank you.
Striking up a short, sweet relationship with a lonely chap in a house on Oxford Road, The Nurse quickly dispatches him, then buries him in the garden before taking possession of her new home. Linthorpe is cool, and there’s even a decent pub close to home, the Linny. The place is full of bell-ends, but so are most pubs these days. Only rich fuckers can afford a pub pint at these prices, the rest are busy pre-loading at home before staggering out of the house at midnight to throw up all the way down town. It’s no wonder The Nurse’s first victim in the ‘Boro is a drunken one.
She finds it oddly challenging at first without Betty to smooth the way with her fragrant old lady charm, no Chief Surgeon to rely on for support in the finer points of the trepanner’s art, and no Team behind her. Nobody to provide admiration either. That’s weird. But she soon gets back in the groove. A brief flirtation, a question asked, a confidence sought, a quick bang on the head, and she’s back in business.
Manhandling the woman – who has a startling resemblance to one of Viz’s Fat Slags – into a slightly whiffy back alley behind Hambledon Road, The Nurse flashes her trepanning knife for drama, raising a short scream from the victim before the tool plunges in and twists, deftly creating a rather beautiful circular hole rimmed with tiny scarlet jewels of blood.
Damn… too fast, or too careless, or too something. The woman slumps, dead, in The Nurse’s arms, and she feels a sharp stab of disappointment. Thank goodness her house has a big back garden.
She is settling in nicely. The ‘Boro accent is her only issue. The thing is, The Nurse’s London-ish Brighton vowels are all wrong for Middlesbrough. They make her stand out from the crowd, something she dreads. So she gets busy learning how to do Middlesbrough, how to speak like a fooken Smoggie. It’s ‘ard, like, but on the other ‘and she’s gettn there, werkn on er accent, polishn the cuntn thing ’til it shines. Fooken ‘ell. Worra werk-out like, but.
The Nurse fancies a screaming bender. The last few months have been fun in some ways, but also tough, even for a woman with such impressive inner resources.
Right now, she wants to let it all go to hell, tune in, drop out, get high, fly towards the edge of the vast cosmic disc of her own madness and peer, awe-inspired, over the edge into infinite amounts of fuck knows what.
A quick call to her new dealer, who turns up instantly because she scares him silly, sees The Nurse lining up a row of Es hand-crafted by some obsessive cunt who spends his life making 100% pure MDMA tabs laced with health-giving antioxidants and whatnot. They’re the best she’s had in donkeys years, since the second Summer of Love when she bought her first pill – at a cost of more than a week’s rent – and thought she’d died and gone to heaven. As a fan of factfulness, she has always known E is harmless. Now that the famously conservative U.S. Federal Drugs Administration has licensed its use in research on humans, drugs don’t get much safer than this.
For The Nurse, the best screaming benders have always involved long, brisk walks on the South Downs on ecstasy, exploring the landscape of her heart. Now she’s getting back in the saddle, walking twenty miles a day over the Cleveland Hills and Yorkshire Dales without breaking into much of a sweat. She’s already as fit as fuck, as strong as a man half her age.
Necking the first two pills in her stash of six, never one to knowingly underdo things, soon she’s as high as a kite on top of Eston Nab, fucking flying, and it feels better than she’s felt for months.
Later that day, confidently climbing the rocks on top of Rosebery Topping like a tall, agile, tweed-clad spider, she’s starting to feel properly at home here in the industrial North East, all flushed and rosy with exercise and in the mood for murder.
Now that her Brighton outfits are heading towards threadbare, reminding her how crap it was only having shabby fucking Crimplene – fabric of the devil – to wear in prison, it’s high time she went shopping. Not her favourite task, but needs must.
The Nurse adores Disgraceland. Her attitude to clothing is buy quality, treat it well, make it last. She doesn’t do actual fashion. Her look, she believes, is timeless. Striding along Linthorpe Road and eventually wending her way to Baker Street, she is charmed by an appealing-looking pop-up pub and stops for a cheeky gin and Dubonnet, no ice, no lemon. After which she pushes open the door of Disgraceland and marches in.
Crikey, she’d love to trepan Jane, the shop’s owner. But the woman is far too useful, as well as too confident and much too tall to knock out unless The Nurse stands on a chair.
Jane sums up her new customer in seconds and guides her towards the vintage tweed suits and M&S lambswool twin sets, then to a carousel of silky scarves. Plucking them free one by one, Jane drapes the scarves over each formal outfit The Nurse chooses, adding drama, sophistication, and a certain mysterious je ne sais quoi with a practised flick of the wrist. When Jane brings out a tray of sparkly vintage brooches and pins them, one by one, on the collars of the jackets with a flourish, The Nurse almost weeps with pleasure.
That’s more like it. The Nurse looks and feels fabulous, like her sartorially impressive self again, a smart older woman-about-town who knows how to dress without looking flashy. You won’t find this lady screaming, naked and furious, at her drunken ex, like she’s seen a couple do in a front garden down Roman Road in the ‘Boro. Or bumming someone round the back of the Escape Club like they did in Brighton.
Heading back to Oxford Road at a fast pace, enjoying the sing of her blood as it pumps good and strong, The Nurse finds she’s whistling. This is weird. She feels weird. It takes a few minutes to realise she’s actually happy. Proper happy, not yearning for anything or missing anything or thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. Not the least bit bored or cross.
Her house is not too big and not too small. She has a growing tribe of new friends, some of whom she suspects have similar interests to hers concealed under respectable exteriors. She’s getting very fond of the Smoggies, the ‘Boro lads and lasses. There’s plenty of opportunity for trepanning, with just as many dodgy types here as you get in Brighton but of a slightly different order. Less gay, maybe. And less effusive. There’s more of a hand-shaking culture here than fucking air-kissing, which suits The Nurse just fine. Unlike Brighton, in the ‘Boro they mostly keep their fucking saliva to themselves.
The only thing The Nurse can’t stand is the taste the locals have for a curious edible object called a Parmo. The Parmo is unique to Middlesbrough take-aways, crafted from a breaded cutlet of chicken or pork topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese, usually cheddar. Christ on a bike. Just fuck off.
The Nurse doesn’t enjoy being looked at. It makes her feel squirmy and strange, just one of many reasons why she’s never had a lover, a boyfriend, or a shag. She’s a virgin. Luckily, it’s hardly a bad situation for a woman whose darker passions run this deep, an awful lot deeper than a mere rare and distant desire for sex. Her dark side leaves no room for romance. None for pets either. Pets are wankers. All that idiotic wagging and purring and running around fucking wheels from dawn to dusk.
When the first cat ambles up the garden path at home, disappearing up the side passage where the coal cellar used to be, The Nurse doesn’t take any notice. The second cat catches her attention briefly, but she’s busy digging a new trench for bodies, fighting her way through the sticky yellow-grey clay which keeps attaching itself in ridiculously heavy clumps to her spade. Fucking stuff. The garden is filling up alarmingly fast. She’ll need to head for the hills soon, find new burial grounds.
When a third cat follows the first two and none of them reappear, The Nurse is curious. She realises she’s left the back door open, drops the spade and approaches the kitchen door with caution, shocked to see three cats sitting on the scrubbed pine table in a tidy row, tails curled around their feet, looking at her.
The Nurse stops and stares, looks away, turns to the left, then slowly turns back. The cats are still watching her. She waves her arms around. They stare. She does a little dance, throwing some shapes. They look mildly interested. One of them starts to wash its face. She blows a raspberry… and their faces do not look bothered. The cats don’t look cross, let down, bored, needy, poorly, baffled, disgusted, frightened or drunk. They’re not stressed, excited or enthusiastic. They seem amiable, neutral, maybe even potentially affectionate. Actually, they’re very like the kind of human who, while a poor team player and better off working alone, does their best to be social as long as they’re in the mood. The Nurse has met plenty of those. They’re cunts like everyone else, but not as cunty as some of the fuckers she’s met. She doesn’t like leaders, for example, something that was made eminently clear by the Chief Surgeon debacle. Being led was alright at first, but the novelty didn’t last once he’d turned into a super-cunt.
Unlike humans, the cats don’t appear to want anything from The Nurse. They’re just looking at her without an agenda. Their calm, dispassionate gaze feels like cool water on a mind that is, more often than not, seething. Cautiously, she reaches out a hand and strokes the nearest cat. It moves its head so her hand slips under its chin and purrs when she scratches with her fingernails. Is it nice or horrible? She’s not sure, but it’s starting to feel quite nice.
She strokes the others, and all three set up a chorus of purring. Oh. My. Crapping. God. The Nurse, for the first time in her life, falls in love. She falls instantly, suffused with a glow that encompasses herself, then the cats, then Oxford Road, the ‘Boro, Britain, Europe, the world, The Universe. Like the kind of thing you write on your exercise books in junior school. This book belongs to fuckfacey-mc-fuckface, fucker house, fuckwad street, fuck-off town, fucktard country, fuckhead continent, fuckery hemisphere, fuckity planet, fuckmonger universe. Fuck fuckity fuck fuck, fuck fuck.
The love The Nurse is feeling is a whole lot of love. But it doesn’t dilute a lifetime’s compulsion to experiment with the unwary, the unwilling, the mashed and the drunk. She’s like a stick of rock. Cut her in half, and you find ‘sick serial killing fucking nutter’ written right the way through, from head to toe. On the other hand, the cats have opened a door in her head that she didn’t realise she had, a door leading to a fluffy, soft, kind place, and that’s sort of cool.
Thoroughly discombobulated by the unexpected tsunami of affection, it takes The Nurse a few days to twig the other important benefit the cats could provide. Cats eat meat. Dead people are meat. Cats will eat dead people. The Nurse kills people, by accident most of the time, but they’re dead all the same. She doesn’t have a team any more. The garden at Oxford Road is already a problem. She can’t handle the disposal of all the bodies herself. Ergo, she needs more cats.
Luckily, she doesn’t need to actually go find cats. Over the next few weeks, the cats arrive, sometimes singly and other times in twos and threes. The clever little shits soon play a vital role in keeping her safe from discovery. The less meat left hanging around the place, the better. The fewer bodies buried in the garden, the safer she feels.
Being a canny combination of furry meat processing factory and treasured companions, the cats deserve names. The Nurse christens them Branston, Specs, Albert, Three, Murphy, Heshe, Rosie, Alice, Molly, Chunky, Betty, Dave, Steve and Otto.
As for the survivors of her trepanning work, the Cleveland Hills are just as good a place to drop them off as the South Downs were, alive and intact except for a thin circular piece of missing skull, with a whacking great dose of memory-loss drugs on board. It’s a bit of a drive from the ‘Boro, but The Nurse cuts an inconspicuous figure driving out past Stokesley in her four-by-four, through Carlton and up onto Carlton Bank, where the soil is dark, deep and peaty.
Now and again, simply for variety’s sake, The Nurse takes a failure or two up into the hills and performs a creative burial. Life gets dull otherwise.
Cruel and unusual
As useful and rewarding as it has been so far, the whole cat love thing has left The Nurse feeling a little vulnerable, something she finds both unfamiliar and alarming. She gets to work remedying the situation, setting a stiff new Personal Best trepanning target to help get her mojo back and regain control of her feelings.
The cats live up to their potential and polish off most of the human waste. Urban foxes do the rest, and if anyone finds a leftover bone or a sinewy bit in the street, they just assume it’s chicken.
At the same time, The Nurse is getting creative with her trepanning. Fighting the urge to spend more time with the cats, she gets all excited about tableaux, another cool thing she first discovered as a child in her family’s old encyclopaedias.
Apparently, the idle rich of Victorian times were bored out of their skulls a lot of the time. To stay sane, they invented many eccentric distractions and copied others, one of which was the tableau vivant, French for living picture. A tableau is a static scene involving at least one person, usually several actors or models, who stand around dressed up, posed in front of props or scenery, sometimes dramatically lit. Honestly. It sounds mental these days. But it was a big thing here and abroad, popular at religious ceremonies and festivals, and a big hit at royal weddings.
The Nurse hums and hahs for ages about what to represent with a brilliantly ghastly tableau of dead and unconscious humans, which she’s going to dress up, arrange and enjoy for an hour before either chopping the dead ones up for the cats or dumping the survivors in the hills. Such fun.
The Victorians were into Greek and Roman mythology, but that’s too much of a head-fuck for the Nurse, who would need to fart-arse around making endless fucking god and goddess costumes. All those togas and draperies and wings. Bollocks to that. Then there’s the Catholics, who went in for grisly, sickly religious tableaux. Sometimes tableaux were used to make soft porn postcards. Because they involved a lady being painted white like a marble statue before being photographed starkers, it could legitimately be seen as ‘art.’ Hm. None of this shit appeals to her.
Several days later, The Nurse is in the back garden, cutting roses for the dining table and idly musing on past adventures, when she hatches the big idea she was searching for. She will create beautiful tableaux from her past. Not tableaux about her trepanning adventures. That would be silly, and it makes her head hurt, the thought of assembling a tableau of her doing her work using people who she’s just worked on. Rather like looking in two mirrors at the precise angle that lets you see infinite mirrors, an infinishiteum of reflections of tiny, weeny you. Something you should never – as Betty once inappropriately advised The Nurse – do when you’re wanking.
The standout experiences from The Nurse’s life are shameful from most people’s perspective. But even viewed with the rose tinted, slightly more cautious spectacles she wears these days, mellowing as she ages, she still finds them pretty funny. She admires her spunky younger self whose potential was cut cruelly short for such a long time in jail. Fuckers.
In her old Brighton days, she’d trepan on the go in the city’s snickleways and alleys. She’d do it in broad daylight in Preston Park, St Anne’s Well Park and anywhere else with bushes to hide in. She trepanned down dingy stairwells on Buckingham Road and in many a posh Hove porch, sunrise and sunset. She trepanned in the Pavilion Gardens, she trepanned on the beaches. Maybe she could reproduce some of those old gems, as well as the best of her crop of recent conquests? That would be fun, a great creative outlet.
The Nurse sets to work jotting her best memories down, after which she’s going to think hard about how to make it work.
It’s a tough one. She has already run across one hell of an issue: when people are either dead or unconscious, they go floppy. Later that night, The Nurse recalls her false teeth idea from prison and sets to work imagining how a whole-body version might work, some kind of exo-skeleton, something to sit floppy unconscious and dead people in. Alternatively, inspired by old-fashioned pipe cleaners, she could thread heavy-duty wire through the bodies and limbs of the dead, allowing for decent posing, maybe even good enough so they don’t look like giant puppets.
On the other hand, dead people soon go stiff with rigor mortis. She doesn’t want them to stiffen in irrelevant positions, leaving her waiting until they un-stiffen enough to be wired up into a cool pose. There’s a lot to consider, but there’s also no real rush. All The Nurse has is time. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.
There’s only so much killing a girl can do. Bearing Betty’s tragic decline into dementia in mind and aware that maintaining a lively intellect is one of the ways to avoid it, The Nurse subscribes to Nature Genomics magazine, learns about genetics and steadily buys bits and bobs of laboratory kit to eventually fit out an underground lab. There’s no way her precious brain is going to shit like Betty’s. She’s going to keep it alive and kicking.
To balance the brain-work, The Nurse walks. The Cleveland Way proves a gem and the Lyke Wake walk a hellish challenge she relishes. Wainwright’s majestic Coast-to-Coast is the most pleasurable until she hikes the length of Hadrian’s Wall and finally loses her walker’s heart to Northumberland’s fierce, blustery bleakness, the wide land crouched under its vast overarching bowl of sky. She also enjoys the tangy sea air at Redcar and loves Saltburn with its claggy deep red Boulder Clay cliffs full of interesting rocks and fossils.
‘Boro itself makes for good urban hiking, a mix of shabby as fuck, stylishly hip, tired and vibrant. Having read local artist Sean Durkin’s book, a transcript of Middlesbrough’s shameful history of poverty and oppression as told by his granddad Patrick, The Nurse likes to visit the places she reads about. Plenty of them still exist. No fucking wonder these people are as tough as nails and as warm as new-baked bread. Their ancestors fucking had to be hard to survive. As time passes, her respect for the ‘Boro lads and lasses increases, as does her affection.
The Nurse is surprised she manages to overpower so many Smoggies, but as Patrick Durkin points out in his book, many of the town’s inhabitants were perpetually drunk from Friday night to Sunday evening in the past, and the tradition continues.
The Nurse, appalled at first by their freewheeling inebriation, now quite enjoys getting arseholed-drunk with the best of ’em down the Linny. These days, she can drink most of the local blokes under the table. They think she’s a game bird, a clever older woman who’s batty but harmless. Little do they know, she’s eyeing them up with a view for starring roles in future tableaux. Ha!
The way we were
Her first tableau is rather clumsy. The Nurse has something much more sophisticated in mind, a thing of beauty with the same kind of vibe as Michelangelo’s David or maybe The Thinker by Rodin. In reality, her first effort looks like a pile of discarded shop dummies, and the clothing the people are wearing clashes terribly. She quickly decides that naked is the way to go, then realises the unconscious are definitely a no-go since she keeps having to re-bash them to keep them under. At least the dead have the common decency to stay that way.
The best thing about the entire tableau thing is that The Nurse is not being quite so wasteful any more. Three fresh trepanning fails no longer automatically means three bodies to hide. Now it means three bodies to either hide, store in the freezer in the garage, feed to the cats, or star in her next tableau before being carefully dismantled, then buried or eaten. It adds a thrilling extra edge to things and makes her work feel more important, more intellectually valid than ever.
While it isn’t quite worthy of a photo, she’s definitely getting there with her second effort. Needing a male victim whose body shape is as close to The Chief Surgeon’s as possible, she finds a lardy lad called Mark who is just about perfect, trepans him cursorily, doesn’t feel particularly bothered when she fails, then lugs him upstairs to her empty, spotless back bedroom with its hospital-style lino flooring and easy-clean walls. God, he looks good. If she squints, she can almost believe it’s The Chief Surgeon, the fat fucker, even though she knows the man is long dead and buried.
This is an entirely new kind of thrill. The Nurse is slightly concerned that the trepanning thing – her life’s work – appears to be taking a back seat in favour of creating beauty, but she thinks the novelty will eventually wear off. For now, she ramps up the killing and creates numerous tableaux, which she captures on her new digital camera. She’s not daft, though. She prints them out at home and stashes the photos in an album under the floorboards in the front room. These images are not for public consumption.
By the time The Nurse makes a tableau of the death of Betty, her tenth, she’s well into the swing of things. Her idea about wiring up the bodies so they can be posed better proves an awesome one and the results are uncannily lifelike. Dismantling them afterwards is a mere matter of project management excellence, one of her core skills.
Was that fun? The Nurse is delighted to accept PayPal donations to fund the next volume of her Diaries. Feel free to bung her a few quid or ten bob or whatevs. Just click on the pretty picture below.